Editorial: MA needs fed $$ to solve our own bridge problems

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For many, the shock and horror following the ship collision and subsequent collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore sparks the question: “could it happen here?”

Gov. Maura Healey aimed to reassure Massachusetts residents Tuesday by declaring that bridges here are regularly inspected and “up to date.”

“I want to make sure that we are having a conversation to make sure that all of our protocols are where they need to be and that we are doing everything we can to assure the safety of our ports and our bridges,” the governor said on Boston Public Radio on WGBH.

Baltimore’s Key Bridge passed inspection in May 2022, but there was concern with one of its columns, CBS News reported.

Ben Schafer, professor of civil and systems engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told CBS News that most bridges in the U.S. fall in the “fair” range, as did the Key. But, he said, the massive ship – not the condition of the Key Bridge – is likely to blame for its collapse.

None of that is comforting.

Especially when our own Sagamore and Bourne bridges have been deemed structurally deficient and in need of replacement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The cost of replacing the 91-year-old spans? North of $4.5 billion, as the Herald reported.

It’s not like state leaders haven’t been trying raise the cash.

The state’s congressional delegation managed to crowbar $722 million out of the feds over the past four months, $350 million of which was signed into law this month by President Biden. The state has committed at least $700 million toward rebuilding the bridges.

The delegation reminded Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in  a recent letter that there is still an outstanding Bridge Investment Program grant application for $1.072 billion waiting on approval.

They could also remind the Biden administration that it is better to get ahead of a problem than it is to tell his people “to move heaven and earth” to respond to a disaster, as the president vowed Tuesday “to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible.”

Ships have hit the Sagamore and Bourne bridges. A cruise ship clipped the Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge in 2016. Damage was limited to scraped paint, but as cruise ships get bigger and bigger, the likelihood of accidental contact is bound to increase.

The last thing anyone needs is for a cruise ship to “Storrow” in the Cape Cod Canal.

The Massachusetts delegation stressed the support it has given Biden in the past as a way to grease the skids for the $1B grant’s release. “We worked hard to pass President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to provide historic opportunities to fund critical infrastructure projects across the United States” they wrote.

But this is an election year, and Biden has a 20 point lead over Trump already in the Bay State. The lawmakers will deliver for Biden again, and he knows it. We don’t have the cudgel of an “uncommitted” bloc of voters to sway the president.

If the glacial pace of federal funding to assist Massachusetts with our migrant influx is any indication, help from D.C. will be coming on a very slow boat.


Editorial cartoon by Joe Heller (Joe Heller)

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